Site-Specific Browsers: Turn Websites Into Desktop Applications

Desktop IconFor a web application, It is always a good idea to provide access to it from other platforms like mobile or desktop programs.

As web designers/developers, desktop applications are harder to create considering they have a totally different environment.

In order to fill this gap, we can make use of site-specific browsers which enable us to lock a website inside an application-looking browser that can interact with the system tray/dock & display notifications.

Some usage examples for site-specific browsers:

  • displaying new orders, support tickets for an e-commerce website
  • showing system tray alerts when a new visitor visits your website
  • or even locking your whole application inside a site-specific browser and offering it as a desktop application.

To sum up, they simply help us convert a website into a desktop application. Here are free & mature tools for creating site-specific browsers:

Mozilla Prism (Win-Mac)

Mozilla Prism Site-Specific Browser

Prism is a very easy-to-customize tool that supports Windows & Mac.

Applications created can be:

  • minimized to system tray/dock & a navigation can be added there
  • set to display status messages & popups in the system tray/dock

Prism apps. will be running seperately from the browser & will stay alive even if the browser isn't.

P.S. You can also read a more detailed post about Prism at WRD.

Fluid (Mac)

Fluid Site-Specific Browser

Fluid enables you to create Cocoa desktop applications with:

  • dock icon
  • standard menu bar
  • growl notifications
  • Userscripting (Greasemonkey)
  • & more..

Bubbles (Win)

Bubbles Site Specific Browser

An application platform for creating site-specific browsers which supports:

  • system tray icon & context menu
  • notifications
  • drap'n drop of local files
  • & more..

Mango (Win)

Mango Site Specific Browser

Mango can create a website-to-application instantly with features like:

  • custom tray & context menu
  • minimize to tray
  • always on top
  • kiosk mode
  • fixed width/height
  • & more..

All application settings are kept in a XML file which can be used for further customization.

Other Site-Specific Browser Methods:

Further Resources:

There are also other ways of creating desktop applications with web scripting technologies like:

  1. Reply totoloco November 18, 2009 at 5:29 AM
  2. Reply james marnley November 18, 2009 at 10:14 AM

    Thanks for sharing this info. what a great site.

  3. Reply Jimmy November 19, 2009 at 3:09 AM

    Wouldn’t Adobe Air fit in here somewhere?

  4. Reply admin November 19, 2009 at 3:42 AM


    It definitely does and mentioned it under “Other Site-Specific Browser Methods”.

  5. Reply Rob November 19, 2009 at 4:20 AM

    When mentioning Adobe AIR, you may also add Titanium Appcelerator which is quite similar but open source.

  6. Reply Rob November 19, 2009 at 4:20 AM

    Edit: Sorry you already have it. My fault!

  7. Reply devsmt November 19, 2009 at 6:22 AM

    why chrome can’t be listed here?

  8. Reply sammysunset November 23, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    I’m surprised no one mentioned Titanium Mobile (aka Appcelerator). It allows you to write applications for not only the Desktop, but also for Android and the iPhone all with Web technologies (HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP/Ruby/etc).

    If you can build a web app, you can build an iPhone/Android/Windows XP/Linux/OSX app with Titanium (and it’s FREE).

    I don’t work for them, I just love their app:

  9. Reply Stephen November 29, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    I have tried appcelerator, its not that intuitive and the current download is pretty lame. the other options above are way easier for the average user.

  10. Reply Mahendra Vikhar March 30, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    I am new in this field and I want to ask a question that is can we use php files with mysql database with this or not. or we have to use any local virtual server with this.

  11. Reply behnam July 16, 2011 at 8:53 PM

    Wapache is very simple way you can bind php with wappache exe server.but 1 big error is your src is open as default.

    Roadsend is good way to use php as exe with src kept hashed.

    Titanium is for professional users but very hard to work with errors(not hard to learn).

    my offer is roadsend.

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